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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nicodemus and the New Birth -- Part 2


Jesus will now use the Older Testament scriptures to teach truth to Nicodemus. Jesus will give Nicodemus three answers to his question, “How can this be?”

  1. Moses and the bronze serpent on the pole v14
  2. God's love v16
  3. Belief (Faith) v16
Moses and the Bronze Serpent-- Numbers 21:4-9

Jesus uses an event in the Older Testament that Nicodemus would be familiar with to show Nicodemus that He is the fulfillment of these scriptures. As a teacher of the Older Testament scriptures, Nicodemus should relate to what Jesus is teaching him. Jesus will compare the bronze serpent on the pole to Himself. The serpent was the emblem of sin and judgment. As a teacher of the Older Testament scriptures, Nicodemus will recognize this. Instead of sin and judgment, Jesus being lifted up on the cross will be the emblem of freedom from sin and Divine judgment. Jesus will be the beginning of worshiping the Father in Spirit, Truth and Grace. The whole Truth was not known fully until Jesus. The Law was in effect which was a type and shadow of the reality in Christ. (see Colossians 2:17)

God's people murmured and complained about God's provision and spoke against God's chosen leader Moses in Numbers 21. They said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” They loathed the manna that God had sent. Even though God had performed the miracle of parting the Red Sea to set them free from bondage and deliver them from the hands of their enemies, the Israelites were complaining about God's provision and His leader, Moses. God had sent manna from heaven to feed His peoples' hunger and the water from a rock to feed their thirst. Just as the Israelites loathed the bread that God sent, the Pharisees loathed Jesus, the Bread (Word) sent from heaven to feed our spiritual hunger. The Pharisees, like the Jews in the wilderness, spoke against God's Anointed One – Jesus. God says in scripture, “Touch not My anointed ones and do My prophets no harm.” 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15

God sent a brood of venomous snakes among the Israelites that bit His people and many of them died. God's people had opened the door to the devil because of their sin against God and His anointed one – Moses. The serpent in scriptures is the devil and his brood of demons. Jesus also called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” because they refused to accept Jesus, the True Manna from heaven, as the Son of God. The Jewish religious leaders were the so-called brood of vipers. Instead of believing in Jesus, they were always biting at Jesus' heels and trying to disprove His authenticity. Because the Pharisees were the teachers of Israel, many Israelites would remain spiritually dead because they talked against Jesus instead of leading the Jews to Him. They were keeping God's people from the Truth and the Messiah. Jesus is using the event of these past actions of the Israelites to teach Nicodemus and illustrate what happens when people reject God's provision-- Jesus, the Divine Bread of heaven.

Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty....it was not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Heavenly Father who gives you the true bread of heaven, for the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” The Jews pretty much idolized Moses. Jesus is saying that it wasn't Moses but God who sent the bread down from heaven and that He is that Bread of life. The manna in the wilderness maintained physical life, but Jesus maintains spiritual, eternal life.

The Israelites humbled themselves and repented of their sin against God and Moses. Then they asked Moses to pray “that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:7 Moses didn't carry a grudge. He forgave them and then prayed that the Lord would remove their punishment. God's people had sincerely repented of their sin against God and Moses. The Lord heard the prayer of Moses and provided a way of healing through a serpent being lifted up on a pole. Eventually God sent Jesus to take away sin and defeat the serpent and his demons. The serpent on the pole could only show the Israelites the error of their ways and provide a temporary means of escape, but Jesus being lifted up on the cross provided eternal forgiveness and an eternal way of escape and healing.

God gave Moses the cure. “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” v8 Moses obeyed God. God wanted the Israelite sinners to look at the source of their pain and suffering so they could be healed. God exposes the dark areas of our lives so we can be cleansed of them . John 3: 18-21 God wants us to recognize our sin and the devil who is the source of it. Then the Lord wants us to turn from our sin and be healed. Each sinner's destiny was based upon their response to God and His Word. If they did as God instructed Moses, they would be healed and live physically. Those who respond to Jesus and obey His Word are blessed with a “new” spiritual life and will live eternally.

In the Older Testament, the serpent was lifted up, but in the New Testament, Jesus who defeated the devil and his demons was lifted up. Jesus is always the reverse of the “old.” The Law brought death for disobedience. Jesus' obedience and death brought eternal life. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” vv14-15 Jesus became the curse for us. The serpents in the Older Testament had brought pain, suffering and death. Moses' serpent lifted up on a pole restored physical healing and life, but Jesus being lifted up on the cross brought spiritual healing and eternal life. In the Older Testament, the people suffered because of the bite and poison of the snake, but in the New Testament, Jesus suffered for all to give us victory over the serpent and his poisonous bites. The Pharisees and Roman rulers bit at Jesus continually like a brood of vipers (snakes). The ways of Jesus are the antidote to the ways of the devil. God provided a remedy in Numbers for physical healing, but He provided the permanent and eternal remedy at the cross of Jesus Christ. Now we must accept His sacrifice and look to Jesus with the eyes of faith. The key to the rebirthing process is accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, as well as His resurrection. The power of His blood and resurrection will breathe “new” life in the Spirit into us.

Jesus wants Nicodemus to embrace something “new” instead of holding onto the “old.”

Nicodemus did not accept Jesus as the deliverer and Savior of both Jews and Gentiles until later in scripture. Nicodemus was interested in Jesus and listened to His words, but he didn't commit to Jesus until later. Nicodemus would have to wait for the unfolding of the events of Jesus' words regarding the temple (His body) being destroyed and in three days raised up before he finally understood it. In the meantime, Nicodemus stood up for Jesus in John 7:50-51, and provided the spices for His burial in John 19:38-42.

The gift of Jesus reaches beyond salvation. Jesus wants us to know Him intimately and understand the spiritual Kingdom of God. Salvation is serious to God. He doesn't want us to perish. Nor did He want Nicodemus to perish without Jesus.

God's love

The second revelation Jesus wants Nicodemus to understand is God and His love.
      “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."
The height and depth of God's love for those who are created in His image and likeness (humanity) is perfectly and fully revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Instead of a serpent on a pole, God sent His Son not just for Israel but for the whole world. “One and Only” means Jesus is one of a kind – unique. Jesus existed from eternity yet became flesh on earth to die for the sins of all flesh. God and Jesus' love is an act of will rather than a feeling. God's agape love wills itself to work even in the face of fierce resistance. God loves because He must. He is Love!

John is saying throughout his writings that love is a sign that we are born again of the Spirit and the Truth. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this (love) all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

1 John 4:7: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Romans 13:8: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the Law.”

It is God's love within us that shows both God and others that we are born again in the Spirit. Jesus gives us a “new” Law – the Law of love.

Moses lifted up the serpent of judgment and condemnation, but Jesus was lifted up not to condemn and judge, but to save and show us the unfailing, undying love of the Father through Him. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” v18 Jesus wanted Nicodemus and us to know and understand this. God wants that none should perish, but we must believe in His Son and His sacrifice for all on the cross if we are to have eternal life. Jesus is God's gift to mankind, but a gift is not a gift until it is received and opened!

Jesus said in John 15: 13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his his friends.” NKJV And, the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” NKJV

The Verdict

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light and will not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives in the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3: 18-21 NIV

Jesus says that those who believe in Him are not condemned, but those who do not believe in Him are condemned. Unbelievers don't need our condemnation too. Unbelievers need to see the Light of Jesus in us so they too might come to Him for salvation and enlightenment.

The Light of the world (Jesus) has come into the world but people will love their evil deeds more than the Light of Truth. Evil doesn't like to be exposed. Satan and his demons work in darkness. Satan and his demonic host want to remain hidden, sneaky and cunning. Satan loves the concealing darkness! Satan finds pleasure in sin and immorality, and keeping people from the Truth in Christ Jesus. Satan's end is the fire in the belly of the earth. He wants to bring people down into the pits of the earth with him. The old saying, “misery loves company” applies here. Satan will work through our sinful., fleshly nature to bring us down.

To the contrary, however, Jesus wants to lift us up into the higher realm with Him. He wants us to be open and honest with Him. Jesus will shed His light upon our dark places, and the power of the Holy Spirit will help remove them so we walk in the Light and love of Jesus. Those who love Jesus will want to walk in His Truth.

The devil wants to bring us further and further down, but Jesus wants to bring us higher and higher into the high place in the heavenly spiritual realm with Him. The choice is ours. God's love provided the way, the truth and the life. It is every person's decision to receive God's gift of His Son Jesus. We can't have Jesus' grace without the light of His truth. Many people gathered around Jesus when He performed miracles, signs and wonders, but when the Truth He spoke penetrated their hearts and convicted them, some walked away from Him. The Truth is for our good, not our destruction. It is the devil who wants to destroy. Because Jesus walks in Light and is Truth, He wants to remove the things of darkness in us so we walk in His Light and blessing and in the fullness of all that Christ's sacrifice bought for us. “In Him, there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“He who does the truth comes to the Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that have been done in God.” These have nothing to hide! If we are doing something that we don't want to reveal openly, you can be sure that your flesh and the devil are at work. There is no spiritual life in the works of the flesh. The flesh profits nothing. But, there is life in the Truth of God – Jesus/Word.

Sometimes those of us who do love and follow Christ want to hold on to the sin within us instead of letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit free us. Letting go of the “old” opens our hearts to the “new” ways of Christ. If we hold tight to our sin, we remain entangled in the yoke of bondage instead of the new freedom in Christ. Jesus' way is the better way! Jesus wants to establish us in His ways and truth. The spiritual door that was closed and guarded in God's garden in Genesis is now opened in Christ so we can have the same intimate relationship with God that Adam and the Woman had before they sinned. In order to share an intimate relationship with another, we must learn of the person so we know him or her. The same is true with our relationship with Jesus and the Father. We must learn of Him so we truly know Him. It is the Word and the Holy Spirit that will bring us to the true and full knowledge of Him.

If you are one who has not accepted the blood sacrifice of Jesus for your sins, today is the day of salvation. Pray a simple prayer to Jesus that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and Lord. Ask Him to be your Savior and Lord today. Jesus said that those who ask will receive, those who seek will find and those who knock will have the door opened to them. He is the only way to the Father and His spiritual, eternal kingdom. May you come to know Jesus in a deep and abiding way. He is the greatest love and blessing the world has ever known.

                              

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